Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Adrienne Shelly|
|Produced by||Todd King
|Written by||Adrienne Shelly|
|Music by||Andrew Hollander|
|Edited by||Annette Davey|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$22 million|
It stars Keri Russell as a young woman trapped in a small town, a loveless marriage, and a dead-end job, who faces an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.
The film debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and went into limited theatrical release in the US on May 2, 2007.
Jenna Hunterson is a waitress living in the American South, trapped in an unhappy marriage with her controlling and abusive husband, Earl. She works in Joe's Pie Diner, where her job includes creating inventive pies with unusual titles inspired by her life, such as the "Bad Baby Pie" she invents after her unwanted pregnancy is confirmed. While a receptionist at the doctor’s office notices her disappointment, and even mentions to her that she can have the pregnancy "taken care of" in a city about 2 hours away, she decides to keep the baby nonetheless. The waitress shows up late for work, talks on the phone, spends time with personal business, and talks back to the boss. Jenna longs to run away from her dismal marriage and is slowly accumulating money to do so. She pins her hopes for escape on a pie contest in a nearby town, which offers a $25,000 grand prize, but her husband won't let her go. Her only friends are her co-workers, Becky and Dawn, and regular customer, Joe, the curmudgeonly owner of the diner and several other local businesses, who encourages her to begin a new life elsewhere.
Jenna's life changes after she meets her new physician, Jim Pomatter. He has moved to the small town to accommodate his wife, who is completing her residency, at the local hospital, and is filling in for the woman who has been Jenna's doctor since childhood. The two are attracted to each other, and over the course of several pre-natal appointments the attraction grows. After Dr. Pomatter invites her into the office under a quickly exposed pretext, she impulsively initiates a passionate affair. Prompted by the gift of a baby journal, Jenna begins to keep a diary, ostensibly for her unborn child, revealing her thoughts about that future child, and her own plans.
After giving birth, Jenna bonds immediately with the baby girl, and names her Lulu. Earl, clearly disappointed that it's a girl, reminds Jenna of a promise he had forced her to make earlier, not to love the baby more than she does him. She bluntly tells him that she hasn't loved him in years, will no longer put up with his possessiveness and abuse, and will not let Lulu grow up with him mistreating her, and wants a divorce. Enraged, Earl attempts to assault Jenna, but is escorted out of the hospital by security staff.
Later, while Becky and Dawn are helping Jenna prepare to leave the hospital, and letting her know that Joe had collapsed and gone into a coma, Jenna remembers an envelope Joe brought to her before the birth, when she finds out he was admitted as a patient in the same hospital. In the envelope she finds a handmade card with a sketch of her, a check for $270,450, and a message of friendship that urges her to start her life anew. While leaving the hospital, Dr. Pomatter wants to have a word with her in private regarding their affair and what is to happen now. She promptly breaks it off, handing him a chocolate Moon Pie and asks her friends to wheel her out.
An epilogue depicts Jenna winning the pie contest, and becoming the new owner of the diner where she worked, now called Lulu's Pies, serving brightly colored pies to her customers and friends. The final shot shows her happily walking home hand-in-hand with her toddler, Lulu.
- Keri Russell as Jenna Hunterson
- Nathan Fillion as Dr. Jim Pomatter
- Cheryl Hines as Becky
- Adrienne Shelly as Dawn Williams
- Eddie Jemison as Ogie Anhorn
- Jeremy Sisto as Earl Hunterson
- Andy Griffith as Joe
- Lew Temple as Cal
- Darby Stanchfield as Francine Pomatter
|“||Seeing Waitress at Sundance was a really emotional experience. The typical format for the festival is that the director is introduced to say a few words before the film begins. It was painful from the beginning to see that there was no director to introduce the film since Adrienne had died. So the producer and Adrienne's husband Andy talked about how it had been Adrienne's dream to have a film at Sundance. It was very poignant.||”|
|— Nancy Utley, COO at Fox Searchlight|
The film was accepted into the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, though its premiere was bittersweet because writer/director Shelly (who also played Dawn in the film) was murdered less than three months before its debut and just before she was about to learn the film had been accepted into the festival. Its success there led Fox Searchlight Pictures to acquire the distribution rights for $4–5 million. It opened the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
The film received mostly positive reviews, with a 90% "Fresh" rating among the 172 critic reviews tracked by Rotten Tomatoes, and ending the year on that site's list of Top 100 films for 2007. It got a 75 out of 100 at Metacritic. Waitress was called a "good-hearted, well-made comedy" brimming with "quality star wattage". The reviewer from The A.V. Club was less glowing, concluding:
|“||It would be tempting to compare the setting and ditzy sidekick/tough-talking blonde/soulful lead dynamic unfavorably to Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore if it aspired that high. With its snappy dialogue and broad characters, it's closer in spirit to that film's sitcom spin-off, Alice. Still, there's much to offset the shortcomings, particularly nice performances from Russell and Fillion and a rare, welcome role from Andy Griffith as the diner's gruff owner, even if he's largely there to set up a finale that cheats much of what's come before. It's an imperfect film, but it's the kind of imperfect film of which it would be nice to have seen Shelly make more.||”|
Awards and nominations
A stage musical has been written, based on the film. The musical opened at the American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts, running from August 2, 2015, to September 27. The music and lyrics are written by Sara Bareilles, with the book by Jessie Nelson. Diane Paulus directs, with choreography by Chase Brock, sets by Scott Pask, costumes by Suttirat Larlarb and lighting by Ken Posner. The cast features Jessie Mueller as Jenna, Kimiko Glenn as Dawn, Drew Gehling as Dr. Pomatter, Dakin Matthews as Joe, Keala Settle as Becky, Eric Anderson as Cal, Jeremy Morse as Ogie and Joe Tippett as Earl.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, previews started on March 25, 2016, and the show officially opened on April 24. The cast featured Mueller, Gehling, Anderson, Settle and Matthews all returning from the A.R.T production, as well as Kimiko Glenn as Dawn, Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie and Nick Cordero as Earl.
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- LaSalle, Mick (2007-05-11). "Bittersweet film served up with heart and soul". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-07-10.
- McLean, Tom (July 27, 2008). "SDCC '08 – DC Animation Panel". Newsarama. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- Viagas, Robert and Gans, Andrew. "Sara Bareilles' Waitress Musical, Starring Jessie Mueller, Reveals Complete Cast" Playbill, June 22, 2015
- Viagas, Rober and Gans, Andrew. "Sara Bareilles' Waitress Musical, Starring Jessie Mueller, Premieres Tonight" Playbill, August 2, 2015
- Viagas, Robert. "Sara Bareilles' Waitress, Starring Jessie Mueller, Sets Broadway Opening Night" Playbill, October 2, 2015
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